Thanks everyone who left a comment regarding this blog. It means such a lot to know everyone still likes what I put out there and that I’m helpful in some way, even though at the moment I feel like the biggest fraud in the world.
So, I guess I’d like to say that I’m going to keep going with this blog. Yes, at times, especially the bad times, it’s a drain and I wish I didn’t have to say I failed. But I think on the whole, it’s a ‘good’ pressure. It’s certainly helped me to keep going this far so stopping now, when I probably need to keep going the most, seems shortsighted. Plus, I’m afraid I like all you guys (and lurkers!) far too much to give you up. And yes, I do like writing it! In fact far more than I ever thought I would. So, sorry, you’re stuck with me. 🙂
There is a couple of things I want to say though because I think I need to say them. Firstly, there may be people who read my blog and wonder at my intensity about this writing business. Yes, I’m an emotional person and I do have a fondness for the dramatic but that’s not the sole reason I have found this so very hard. About 8 years ago I lost a family member and afterwards – as you do when this kind of thing happens – I thought to hell with a life half lived, I need to follow my dream, if nothing else to make the pointlessness of the loss mean something (sidenote: hey, conflict alert! Quick, someone nick that as a conflict because if you don’t, I will! hehe) . Now, unfortunately with this kind of decision, the dream ends up meaning more than it perhaps should which makes its failure that much harder. I don’t know whether I need to step back from this or not, but I have to say, it has driven me much further than I thought I would ever be prepared to go. Still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or not.
Secondly, the Hammer Pants ms. Why was it R’d? Well, its faults were many and myriad. But they all stemmed from the same thing, the thing I have ALWAYS struggled with: it’s the conflict stupid. No, the ed didn’t say that specifically but she did point out issues in the characters’ backstory that I skated over, that I should have dealt with and – as is always the way – you go, ‘of course!’ Why didn’t I do that?’ And I didn’t because I didn’t know what those issues were. Why didn’t I know? Because I hadn’t ever got a handle on the conflict.
And herein lies the big problem with my writing. I have not ‘got’ conflict. I’ve done everything the eds suggested – character biographies, interviews, writing out aspects of their backstories. Everything. I tried SO hard. And I learned heaps in the process. But it didn’t work because I have been starting out wrong every time. I still have not understood simple, deep conflict.
And this – I think – is where I am hampered by two things: 1) Up until 2 years ago, I didn’t read romance. All I read were fantasy/SF and literary fiction. 2) I like to do things my own way and I like to be different.
Issue number one means I do not have a background in the conventions of genre fiction. I didn’t even know what conflict was, let alone the fact that romance novels have to have an HEA. I didn’t know that heroes and heroines have to be sympathetic and aspirational and flawed and all those other things, because they don’t have to be in literary fiction.
Issue number two means that I want to be different. I didn’t want to write those stock conflicts – woman loses father, then loses husband and so is wary of love for example. I wanted my conflicts to be different. But of course, since I had no idea about what conflict was – or rather, I’d grasped some aspects of it, but not others – I didn’t know how to make them different. Lastly, I didn’t really understand that there’s a reason those conflicts pop up again and again – because they work! Duh.
Sigh. So if you take that, add the fear of making things too dark, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s very sad because my dear old Hammer Pants ms was something I wrote 18 months ago. The characters do have life and energy that my most recent stuff doesn’t have, which just goes to show how horrible the last year or so has been for my writing. But the main thing Hammer Pants didn’t have was conflict. And I knew that. I just wasn’t expecting it to win that contest, and I wasn’t expecting a request. And I panicked with the partial. But, to be fair, I think even if I hadn’t panicked and took the time to do it properly, I STILL wouldn’t have got the conflict right. Maybe I needed this rejection in order to learn what I still don’t know.
There are those who say I probably shouldn’t list my problems like this so publically. That editors/agents may read this and view it poorly. Well, that may be the case. And if there are editors/agents reading this, know that this is me making every effort I can to learn my craft in order to make better stories. But I also wanted to let you guys reading now know that even after working with an editor for so long, there are some things that still don’t fall into place. Maybe if I’d fluked one right ms, I may have had the added pressure of having to do a second book in order to handle the conflict issue with more speed. But whatever the case, I didn’t fluke it and my luck ran out.
Anyway, so where do I go from here? I don’t know. I need to learn about conflict because I suspect my problems with it are not specific to Mills and Boon but to the whole romance genre, and in which case, my other mss will not fly anywhere.
Whatever the case, I have been ordered by Dr Jax to take two weeks off writing. This is a horrible thought, especially as two new ideas popped into my head just yesterday (yeah, can’t stop the ideas!) but I’m going to do it. I’ll let the ideas percolate and sit there. And maybe if I’m still excited by them, I’ll go ahead and write them. But until then, it’s no writing for me.
I’ve also decided to take a week off blogging/blog reading too so apologies if I don’t visit you or leave comments. Know that I will be back soon once I’ve cleared my head and the grief of the lost opportunities isn’t quite so raw.
And once again, thank you all so much for reading and for your support. You are all wonderful.